If you have been following me on Facebook, then you know that one of my “things” is periodically snapping pictures of my father. Usually, we’ll be at some restaurant about to eat. I don’t know why I started doing it, but I do. His reaction has run the gamut of “Put that phone down” to “I’m hiding my face!” Dad is just Dad.
Crash course on Dad: Born and raised in Hampton, VA in the midst of Jim Crow. It’s not a chapter in a history book for my father; he lived it. Schools were segregated. Blacks were barred from certain places and positions. Classmates of his were lynched. When he was an adult, he wasn’t allowed to vote. I could go on. Attended Hampton Institute (now University). Served in the U.S. Army. Attended Penn State for grad school. Worked for Owens-Illinois in Research and Development. Had eight children, two with severe disabilities. Married to mom for 42 years. A bunch of other stuff. It’s Dad.
Dad is one of the smartest people I know. I’m not just saying that just because he’s Dad, either. Even from a young age, he was crazy about science. One of my uncles told us this story about my young father figuring out how to make a small bomb and inadvertently exploding it in my aunt’s face. This guy is one of the few people I know who worked on computers back when they were the size of an entire building, required punch cards, and had MUCH less memory in them than you have on your I-Pod. He worked on the patent for the Coca Cola bottle! Oh yeah… and he has three Masters degrees… After he retired, this guy looked up everything there was to know about running and physiology and taught himself how to coach track/cross country and got results from his runners! There’s all sorts of stuff I could throw out there about him.
For the love of God, if you ever meet Dad, don’t fucking bullshit him. He can smell it a mile away. He’s the sort that will let you continue while giving you enough rope to hang yourself. If you’re going to argue with him - and all of his children have done plenty of it - just know your stuff. Don’t insult his intelligence because you are the one who is going to look like a fucking moron.
Dad is also one of the strongest people I know. From current health challenges to devastating life experiences, he has kept going even in the darkest of times. He’s got a list of health conditions and yet every day is up to mischief, arguing with all of us, teasing all the medical staff, and plotting on how to get solar panels on the roof. If anything comes up, he’s googling it.
There are a few bad habits of his, however. No, I’m not talking about alcohol or cigarettes or anything like that. I’m talking about his feedings the dogs off his dinner plate… or spying on me through Facebook… You know that Stevie Wonder song? The correct refrain is “I just called to say I’m hungry.” Back in my college days, Dad would call me at 2:30 AM because “Why weren’t you in your dorm at midnight?” There are times I’ve said to him “I’m 36. If I can’t find my way home by now, I’m going to be lost forever.”
I admit that I do joke and pick on Dad and - yes - argue with him. A lot. The reason is because I am so glad that he is in my life. I wouldn’t give up Dad for anything in the world, even the $100K Bosendorfer or Steinway pianos I’ve been lusting after for years. I will share my father, however.
Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving, Dad. We love you.
Oh… and we all forgot to buy the sweet potatoes. Sorry, Dad. All the stores are out. No sweet potato pie this year.